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Central Coast Climate Collaborative Panel Focuses on Carbon Farming

Russell Chamberlin demonstrating the difference between composted and not-composted areas.
Photo Credit: Andrew Hill

On August 23, the inaugural 2017 Central Coast Climate Collaborative (CCCC) Summit was held in San Luis Obispo. The event brought together community leaders throughout six Central Coast counties – Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura – to address climate change mitigation and adaptation, build coordinated climate resilience for the Central Coast and to highlight shared challenges, promising solutions and successful regional adaptation approaches.

Sharyn Main, Senior Director of Community Investments at the Santa Barbara Foundation, was part of a panel on agriculture, “From Pilots to Big Bold Visions: Rapid Scaling of Carbon Farming.” Together with local rancher, Russell Chamberlin, and representatives of the Community Environmental Council, the Cachuma Resource Conservation District and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, the group detailed the genesis and progress of a carbon farming project taking place on Chamberlin’s 8,000 acre ranch in Los Olivos.

As part of the LEAF (Landscapes, Ecosystems, Agriculture and Food Systems) Initiative, the Santa Barbara Foundation has invested close to $70,000 in this project that is now one of 17 National Resource Conservation Service trial sites in California. The project is aligned with the strategic approach of the LEAF Initiative, specifically the recently completed Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. The plan defined 16 goals and a number of strategies for meeting those goals, where carbon farming emerged as one of the top priorities.

The goal of carbon farming is to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil, where the carbon can aid the growth of plants. For example, spreading a very thin layer of compost on rangeland increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the soil and leads to increased water-holding capacity. This process results in healthier soil, which makes agricultural lands more resilient to drought and increases crop production. Data collected from the Chamberlin site will help establish the protocol for carbon farming practices in the state and increase the financial resources and incentives available to ranchers.

While there are barriers to overcome – from permitting and zoning requirements, to the recruitment of willing land owners – the work continues. Chamberlin expressed his hope to include his peers in this work with a wry comment, “I used to be thought of as the black sheep of the family – now I am the green sheep.”

For more information on carbon farming, the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan or the LEAF initiative, please contact Senior Director of Community Investments, Sharyn Main, at or 805-963-1873.
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101